Anatomy of an Alpine-Style Route in the Khumbu Region of Nepal

Lobuje summit - Everest in background
On Lobuje summit with Everest in background

LOBUJE EAST (20,075ft/6119m)- South Ridge

By Freddie Snalam and Simon Peck: Photos by Freddie Snalam

© 2001 Alpine World

Lobuje East is a classic 'Trekking Peak', meaning that you will need a permit in order to climb on the mountain. The triangle-shaped peak makes an imposing presence at the head of the Pheriche Valley, located in the upper Khumbu region of Nepal. Everest Base Camp is only seven miles away. Most parties go to the false summits, often being intimidated by the way on to the true summit.

The South Ridge has a first recorded ascent by Laurence Nielson and Sherpa Ang Gyalzen (25 April 1984). This is the regular route on the mountain and starts from a high base camp at 18,200 feet (5,550m). Base camp is in an idyllic setting located at a hidden lake below the icy S.W. face. Here you will find perfect camping spots. There's even a sandy beach area! Many groups use a lower base camp but this can add several hours to your summit day climb.

Getting there from Kathmandu:
(from Freddie Snalam's diary)

Wed 18 October: leave Denver International Airport-Los Angeles-Tokyo.
Th 19: Tokyo- Bangkok.
Fr 20: Bangkok Kathmandu (arrive at noon).
Sa 21:Rest Day, pick up airline tickets for Lukla & Trekking Peak permit (arranged via Email!) from Mr Rishi at Apollo Trekking, Thamel, Kathmandu.
Su 22: 7.30am flight (30 mins) to Lukla (9,240ft/2800m). 20 kilo max baggage. 75 cents/kilo excess baggage charge! I am trekking by 9am, one porter for 3 days @ $40, (2 days up, 1 day down). Stay at Jorsalle (9,255ft/2805m) • no elevation- gain but plenty of up & down! Other villages on the way are Phakding and Monjo. These are good places to stop and both have pool tables, the rage of the Khumbu Valley!
Mo 23: A three hour grunt up the steep hill to Namche Bazar(11,350ft/3440m). Meet up with Simon Peck (Brit who lives in Los Angeles). Simon was wrapping up his first Himalayan peak- Island Peak (aka Imja Tse 20,305ft/6189m) along with his wife Mary, and Hannah and Bob. This team was now going down, leaving Simon and I to climb our first peak together in Nepal.
Tu 24: Trail Running with Everst view Rest/Acclimatization day. Hike up to Everest View Hotel for lunch. Around $200/night with complimentary oxygen! On over the hill to the villages of Kunde and Kumjung (12,500ft/3790m), home to the famous Yeti or Abominable Snowman's Skull. First day of Trail Running • ..what a rest day!!??
Wed 25: Namche to Thyangboche (13,150ft/3985m), trek time 3-4 hours. This village (also called Pangboche) has one of the most famous of all Buddhist temples or Gompas, founded in 1916. Views here are spectacular! You can even see Mt Everest!
Th 26: Thyangboche to Pheriche (14,000ft/4243m), trek time 4-5 hours. Good Trail Running in select areas. Pheriche has a hospital aid post and the Himalayan Rescue Assoc. is based here. Manned by volunteer doctors from around the world it is a great source of comfort for many • evacuations via helicopter for the unprepared trekker (averaging one per day!) can bring home the seriousness of high altitude trekking. Trail Running with the Doctors!
Fr 27: Rest/Acclimatization day. Spent two nights in Pheriche. Got the biggest bill for lodging, food, etc. ever = $88($22/day!).
Sa 28: On to Lobuje (16,270ft/4930m). Trek time 2 1/2 hours. Basically a cluster of tea-houses and lodges. Signs of the altitude evident in much coughing and wheezing and sad-faced trekkers! Reconnoiter new route potentials. Plenty of possibilities for rock pitches leading onto the summit snow and ice. We content ourselves with the regular route. Decision made! Great Indian food at "Above the Clouds" lodge that evening!! Following morning at breakfast we overheard the cook say"Omelette Yes, scrambled egg No!"
Su 29: Lobuje to high Base Camp (18,200ft/5550m). Trek time 3hours. Hiked up to look at our climb. New route possibilities on Left side of the S.W. Face. Long approach, one camp needed below a rock band. We could be persuaded back in 2002!!?? Meet Stuart Holmes (photo- journalist/guide) guiding a group for Doug Scott's UK-based Trekking Co. Also Sonia Casas from Bilbao, Spain climbing as a duo with her Nepali climbing Sidar. Both were successful on the mountain. Tomorrow is our turn.
Mo 30: Summit Day. Leave the warmth of our Bibler tent at 1.15am. Hike over smooth slabs, following cairns, (stone markers), onto the hard snow. Crampons on. Now at 19,000ft(5760m) it's time for a cup of tea! My new Snow Peak stove weighs in at only a few ounces and is well worth the carry. Ah, if all routes could be like this! Steep climbing ahead (60 degrees). No need for the climbing rope as we can't see what is down there in the void anyway. On the First summit by 5am. Dawn arrives. Boy is it cold. No wind. Head along the knife-edged ridge, less than 12inches (25 centimeters) in places to reach the Secondary summit by 6am. Most parties call it a day at this point but not Simon.
knife edge ridge
"Let's descend the (dangerous-looking) ridge to the notch".
Ok, so I go first. It is steep. One slip and I would have been catapulted out into space on either side! Our 200ft (60m) twin rope reaches the notch. I cannot believe I have found a bolt belay. Is this legal? I tie off the rope and Simon comes down to join me. He leads out and up through an ice bulge at 20 feet (6m) on our remaining (thin-looking) rope.

Simon on Ice Bulge with Everest I snap away with my camera. It's not every day you get to watch your climbing partner grapple with steep ice at 20,000ft (6000m) with Mount Everest as a backdrop! The rope snakes out almost to the end. I hold the rope tight for a moment. Simon recognizes this and gives a couple of tugs back to let me know that all is well. I follow. "Good lead Matey!". I move up to Simon who has an ice axe belay. He tells me to leave the deadman(snow anchor) in place and keep climbing up. We will be using that anchor as a means of retreat later in the day(Note: I abseiled from it, Simon cut an ice bollard for his decent. As a result we left no gear on the mountain). The true summit was looking at us, saying, "You are almost there!" We climbed, roped together to the top. Time around 9am. Still no wind. Gummie bears (candy sweets) were devoured by the handful! It was safer to sit than stand on the summit! All we had to do now was get back safely. It was a 13-14 hour round trip. Base Camp became 'Relax-o-Camp' as we sat in our sleeping bags, warmed by the sun. Young Pasang Sherpa, from Nanche Bazar, had spent the day watching us. His job now was to keep the cook stove going for hours till we fell asleep. Bajee, our 68-year old porter was down in the nearest tea-house, hopefully keeping warm by a fire!
Tu 31: Pack up Base Camp, wait for Bajee to arrive, load everyone up and descend back to Pheriche. We did a double celebration that night because it was also Halloween!
Running with Dr. Judy Klein and Lobuje East Wed 1 November: Real coffee with the doctors, followed by some Trail Running with Dr Judy Klein from San Francisco. Head down to Thyangboche. Trek time, 3 hours.
Th 2: Thyangboche to Namche Bazar. Trek time, 3 hours.
Fr 3: Rest day in Namche Bazar. High on our list: Everest Bakery for Cappuccinos, German Bakery for freshly made salami sandwiches, Trail Running with Pasang Sherpa, a few games of pool in the evening. Great rest day.
Sa 4: Leave 'Nanche' at 8.30am. Arrive Lukla at 1.45pm (5 ΒΌ hrs).
Su 5: Catch 8am flight to Kathmandu. 13 kilo excess baggage charge (630 rupees= $9 US). Taxi down (20 degrees!) runway past crashed airplane. Slightly disconcerting!
Mo 6: Day in Kathmandu.
Tu 7: Leave for home (Boulder, Colorado, USA).
Wed 8: Back home!

Time for trip: 22 days

  • Airfare to Nepal $1,400.
  • Internal flights $200.
  • Mountain Permit/Hiring Sidar $300 & $300 ($300 ea).
  • Trekking costs $250.
  • Porter/Sherpa hire ($100).
Total= $2,200 US ($100 per day).

© 2001 Alpine World